On his final day in office, President Barack Obama granted shorter sentences to 330 prisoners, tallying his granted commutations to 1,715 prisoners during his presidency. That is more than the past 12 presidents combined.
Reports prove he’ll be the first president in 36 years, since Jimmy Carter, to leave office with a smaller federal prison population than he inherited. His last day alone included the most sentences that have ever been commuted in one day in U.S. history.
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For Bernard Smith, whose story was recently shared in The Chicago Tribune, it's his second chance at life after 13 years away from his wife and children.
Smith’s 22-year sentence came while working at a Maryland restaurant in 2002 when his brother asked him to obtain marijuana for a drug deal. It was his brother who obtained crack cocaine instead. However after the brothers got caught selling to undercover officers, Smith was charged with the cocaine offense as well.
He still had 10 years to serve when he was notified on Obama’s last day in office that he was granting him another chance. Under Obama’s initiative for commutation, Smith will have to enroll in a residential drug treatment program. Only after that will he be two years away from freedom.
Smith’s attorney, Michelle Curth, says he aspires to obtain a license in heating and air conditioning maintenance.
"He's a good person who, like so many people, got involved in something he's been punished for already," she added.
Neil Eggleston, the White House counsel under the Obama administration, said in an interview that President Obama “saw the injustice of the sentences” and “has a strong view that people deserve a second chance."
"He wanted to do it. He wanted the opportunity to look at as many as he could to provide relief,” Eggleston continued.